evilgoddss: (Harry Potter)
[personal profile] evilgoddss
Yep. Back at it.

Tourism in Knocturn II

“So, after Judas took up residence, there was a flood of other covens of vampires moving in. The flops and hanger-ons, who like to toady up to their Lord, of course. Started a whole new renovation upswing in the neighborhood, which brought out more werewolves in looking for work -- they’ve opened a construction firm in the muggle world, I'm told. Given their heightened strength and instincts, and reduced rates, they are making a killing. Well, monetarily, not literally. And I suppose that is when the Goblins got into it, financing it all.”

Jasper Lockwood returned home, after a very long day in what felt a very long week at work; he was all sweaty, terribly grimy and truly ready for a good hot long shower before eating a warm meal and falling into his bed. Werewolf he might be, but even so, a week sitting in endless meeting after meeting, and then more meetings with Goblins, and the reams of contracts that he and Anton had to sign, tied to the financing for their new construction firm , it was enough to break the strongest of men.

However, as tired as he was, he was also innately pleased that the week had netted such a solid result. After the next full moon, Howl Construction would be up and running, taking over the physical assets and tenders of Digimar Construction Firm, which had just filed for bankruptcy. It also meant, they could acquire the existing contracts for Digimar that were in progress, and finish them for the continuing revenues as contractually obligated.

Sure, the Goblins owned a good portion of the new company – but at the end of the day, werewolves now had their own business. Werewolves being the wolf packs of Privet Drive. Their own business, with their own days off – those being the full moon – and the ability to truly chart their own course! It was that no werewolf alive had never thought to have in the course of his own lifetime.

At any length, after such a long tiring week, it was excusable that Jasper should not be quite on top of his game. And certainly, popular myths always said that werewolves, in their human form, had higher sensory skills than any other human, but as many werewolves desperately tried to convince wizards and witches that wasn’t at all true.

After all, here was a strong, healthy, young werewolf, worn down by Goblins, and complete unaware that a vampire was strolling up his drive.

“A-hem.” The voice behind Jasper seemingly came out of nowhere, and since it wasn’t the soft tones of his beautiful wife, nor the childish tones of little Harry, and he was tired, and out of sorts…. Jasper spun around, and then screamed like a girl.

The vampire, a tall pale man with blond hair, and red eyes took a step back, as if appalled by the response. “Well, aren’t you the jumpy type!” He muttered, hand pressed to his chest and looking rather shocked.

Safety being relative, Jasper thought having his physical body (and neck) with a vehicle between him and the vampire to be of a prudent decision. “I’m not jumpy!” He said defensively. “You just caught me by surprise.”

“Like I said, jumpy.” The vampire smirked, a flash of fang catching the light. “I’m Judas.”

Now, Jasper was a well-educated werewolf. He had his muggle undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering. He had a hedge-wizard’s education in magic, which had earned him 7 NEWTs overall, and while certainly he wasn’t a big fan of care of magical creatures, but he had paid attention to dark creatures in defense. And Judas was a rather infamous vampiric name. And, this was cause for great alarm. “The Damned?” He squeaked, suddenly realizing his lovely truck really wasn’t shield enough, but wrapping hands around his neck to safeguard that precious flesh wasn’t likely to help either.

The aforementioned vampire rubbed the back of his head, mouth twisting in distaste. “Really? That’s probably the thing that irks me the most out of all this rot. I hadn’t been named Judas the Damned by my mother, may her bitchy-soul wither in hell.” He muttered the last sotto voce, but Jasper WAS a werewolf after all, and heard it clear as a bell.

Fabulous. The Damned had mommy issues.

“In fact, the evil bitch named me worse than that. I legally changed my name to Judas at fourteen when I was old enough to do so. But, in terms with how history refers to me, yes… I am Judas the Damned.” He said it with so much disgust, as if saying History was an unreliable bitch, and she and him were on the outs.

“The first vampire?” Jasper gave a good look at his front door, estimating it to be fifteen feet from his current position. The backdoor was a good forty-feet away. At his fastest, he couldn’t outpace a vampire, unless he was possibly in his werewolf form – and given it was barely 7 at night, and the sun was still up – hold up! The sun was up! “Wait! The sun is up! Aren’t you supposed to be comatose in your crypt right now?” Jasper tried.

“Pretty much, yep.” Judas agreed, leaning on the side of the truck. “But, the darkness in this community is rich, and such rich darkness will sustain me in daylight. It’s awesome, being able to hunt under the sun’s light. Wickedly cool.” He blinked as Jasper twitched. “Do relax, man… Geez, you really are the hyper-nervous type, aren’t you?” He observed with a smirk. “One would think you’d never been stalked before.”

Jasper shuddered. Stalked? This couldn’t end well -- he was too young to die from exsanguination, dammit. “I… look… I’m a werewolf. My blood has a dark virus, and that can’t be tasty.” Jasper tried to argue, not liking the way this conversation was going. He adored wee Harry, but really? Did he have to promote a strong healthy dark atmosphere all through ruddy Little Whinging?

“No, no, you’ve got it all wrong, werewolf blood is quite good, actually. Little more robust than your average inbred wizard. Got a bit of kick to it.” Judas disagreed. “But, chill, wolfman, I’m not here, at least right at this moment, for your blood.”

Jasper wasn’t sure if he should feel relieved. “You swear?”

“Every damn day.” The vampire confirmed with a nod, a fang flashing as he grinned.

“That’s not what I meant.”

Judas shrugged, stuffing hands into the pockets of his jeans. “I can make an oath, but really, if I am ‘the damned’, who is going to believe my oath will stick?” The vampire took a few steps towards the bonnet of the truck, pausing to glance in the mirror, and tsk at what he didn’t see. “Y’know, one day muggles will create a mirror where I can see my reflection in.” He predicted. “I just hope they do it soon. Do you know how hard it is to floss your fangs when you can’t see them?”

“Not really a problem, so, no… can’t say I relate.” Jasper was walking away from the bonnet on the far side. Sadly, it increased the distance to his front door, and also meant that should he run for it, he would directly cross the vampire’s path. Darn it.

“You can’t? Not even try to imagine? Just a little bit?” Judas countered. “It’s not hard… just… think about it. Trying to find that back molar with no clue if you’re getting there or not, because you ruddy can’t see a thing… all done by feel, not sight. You try finding a dentist willing to work on these teeth! It’s a nightmare!”

“Sounds dreadful. But, I daresay, the blind can relate.” Jasper agreed. “Mind you, I’m not blind, and have no desire to be blind.”

“Don’t go spotting a gorgon, then.” Judas airily advised. “Honestly, they aren’t great conversationalists anyway, what with their damn hair interrupting all the time.” The vampire took another step around the car. Jasper did the same. “So… the reason I spooked you…”

“Yes?” Jasper asked warily.

“The Magical Ombre Bed and Breakfast? It’s somewhere around here, I’m told.”

“Ah.” Jasper relaxed marginally, just a fraction really. “Yes. It is. You are aware it’s run by a hag, though.”

Judas waved his hand, completely unconcerned. His eyebrows rose, and mouth pursed expectantly.

Jasper sighed, shoulders slumping. He raised his arm and pointed down the street. “It’s the black painted house – end of the boulevard.” Jasper twitched a finger to the left of the intersecting boulevard. “The one with the headless rose-bushes, and the nightbloom foxtails.”

In a flash, the vampire was beside him, peering down the length of Jasper’s arm towards the house that Prudence the Hag, a distant cousin of Harry Potter, had bought and then paid the wolves top-dollar to convert to her specifications. She was nice enough, for a hag, Jasper had learned. Learned second hand, mind you as it was his lovely very-squib wife who regularly took tea with Prudence, which really was just one more thing leaving Jasper to worry increasingly about Ally’s mental state. Blacks were notorious for their insanity, after all.

“Eek!” Jasper squelched up against the side of his truck, practically trying to scale the damn metal beast.

“Mmm…” Judas took a sniff of Jasper’s neck. “You’re absolutely drenched in wild magic, darling, it’s all over your skin and hair….” He breathed deeply, savoring the smell. “So very delicious!” A swipe of a cool tongue swept along Jasper’s jaw.

The whimper escaping Jasper’s throat wasn’t manly, and in the years that followed, no matter how much Judas gloated about it, Jasper would deny emphatically that any whimper had ever happened.

Mercifully, at least for Jasper, Ally chose that moment to open the front door of their home and step out to give him hell for being so tardy. “Jasper Myron Lockwood! What do you think you’re doing?” She growled, stalking out in a pair of tan slacks and a navy blouse.

“Myron?” Judas snorted.

“Shut-up.” Jasper hissed. Oh, they were in so much trouble. Ally was going to flay them both alive, and really – that was so unfair. He hadn’t DONE anything!

Stomping down the driveway, she went nose-to-nose with the vampire. “MINE!” She told Judas quite firmly. “And he’s not into boys!” Of course, Ally completely ruined this last part by cocking her head with narrowed eyes as she looked carefully at her husband, “Are you? On occasion? Because watching that might be hot.”

This whimper he would later own up to. “No.”

Ally’s eyes narrowed more, “Are you SURE?” She pushed.

“Very. Luv? Vampire.”

She blinked, gaze swinging from her husband to the man holding him dreadfully close. “Are you really?” She asked all curious, her grey eyes dropped to the vampire’s lips, narrowing as she waited for evidence of vampirism.

Judas bit his lip, eyes alight with laughter. “I really am.” He said, fangs completely on display. He released Jasper utterly, straightened his jacket.

“Huh.” Said Jasper’s naïve but lovely wife. “Fancy that. Just upper fangs? What about lower? And, how much of that Dracula crap is bunk? The sunlight, garlic, holy symbols, and whatnot?” She blinked. “Do you have a dental plan to look after those teeth?”

Judas blinked, looked at Jasper in confusion, and then back at Ally. “Uh. Well. It’s… vampires are… we’re the apex predator. Most dentists aren't keen on giving us a checkup, you understand.”

Ally rolled her eyes. “Puhleeze. There is no such critter as "apex" predator. There’s always a bigger bad waiting to get you.” She folded her arms, and huffed.. “Listen, Mr. Vampire – my husband, the werewolf, is not up for sale, rent or dinner. And I’m not above having some priest come bless our water tank so I can hose you down.”

“She’s good.” Judas said admiringly, stepping back from the werewolf. He swung the red-eyed gaze back to Ally. “Judas Iscariot, apparently, the Damned.” He held out a hand.

Ally, his beautiful, naive squib wife, took the hand firmly. “Allison Dorea Black-Lockwood. And, yes, I’m a daughter of THOSE Blacks.”

“You don’t say?” Judas grinned, fangs glinting. “Well, well…. Old Sirius Black must be spinning in his grave, and that damn well serves him right, the old prejudiced bigot of a coot!” He lifted Ally’s hand to his lips and gently pressed a kiss. “I must say, my dear Lady Black… you smell much like your husband, simply dripping wild magic. But,” He smirked over her hand. “You aren’t the source of it.”

Ally’s expression hardened. “Indeed. I’m a squib, Mr. Iscariot – and really? That Iscariot? Bit of a tattle-tale aren’t you. Now, Mr. Iscariot -- do you need a map back to Transylvania? Or, perhaps a bit of sunblock? Can I call you a cab back to hell?”

“Nope.” The Damned winked. “I’m right where I’m supposed to be. I’m staying at the Ombre B&B, darlings. I’ll be here abouts for a few weeks; perhaps we can have tea one afternoon?” He slipped past them, to the end of the drive and a dark trunk that had been sitting forlornly there. “Tah!”
It was at that moment, that Jasper decided that tired or not, new business or whatever, they were going on a two week vacation post haste. Far, far away from Little Whinging and the oldest most deadly vampire known to magical history, who seemed to like licking people.

The problem with new business ventures, especially partnerships, was that impromptu vacations couldn’t be arranged on just a mere whim. The partner always had a say. And when it was a start-up, especially one working in conjunction with the Goblins who had assisted in financing the venture, there was a great deal of work to be done out of the gates.

But, it was even more difficult when the vacation request being difficult to accommodate wasn’t about the business side of things, but rather there was the custody dispute over a minor child, that in truth didn’t belong to either of the two wolves arguing the matter. For, no matter how much he begged Anton, his new business-partner was having no part of Jasper’s escape plan if it included Harry.

“So, a vampire is staying at the the B&B?” Anton had asked, yet again. It was a question clearly on repeat. “An elder vampire?”

“Judas the Damned. The FIRST vampire.” Jasper repeated. He was going to have nightmares tonight, he just knew it. Some bizarre dream where he and Anton engaged in a tug-of-war contest, with the vampire presiding as the judge. Winner didn’t get eaten.

“Huh.” Said Anton. “So, like I said, an elder vampire.”

“Really? We’re going go through this entire conversation again? And precisely what bearing does the vampire have on what I’m asking for? Look, I just want to take Ally and Harry away on a wee vacation to Majorca. Tonight. For two weeks.”

“While the vampire is here.” Anton said slowly.

“Merely coincidental.” Jasper lied blithely.

“I really think not.” His longtime friend buddy countered, sensing the fib. “You don’t even like water, Jasper, so I’m thinking the vampire has great bearing on the subject. Besides, you can’t take Harry. The lad needs to stay in school. I mean, by all means, if you and Ally must go off for ONE week, then I’ll make do with the business, and I’ll be sure to meet Harry at the gate of his school and walk him home after classes in your absence.”

See, that was the deal breaker. Ally would move heaven and earth to get time off from her clinic but only IF Harry was coming along. But to just leave Harry to the mercy of Petunia Dursley for two weeks, well, then there was no way Ally would leave town. She’d already changed her hospital shiftwork to ensure she was home before Harry went to school, and by the time his school-day ended.

Frankly, her maternal instincts were on fire for that lad, and she worried about the child plenty. In truth, Jasper was hard pressed to disagree with her concerns. “Harry’s only four years old, and the school year as nearly at an end. There won’t be an issue pulling him for a mere two weeks.”

“Come now, what you really mean to say is that you’re going to use memory charms extensively on the teachers.” Anton clucked his tongue in feigned disapproval. Feigned, because anyone who knew Anton knew the man was shameless in how he memory charmed muggles to meet his ends. ”All the books on the subject say any interruption in his school year is detrimental for his academic development.” Anton argued.

“Oh, for love of Merlin -- you can’t keep him.” They both knew what the tug of war was about. His wee neighbor was the source of wild magic in this neighborhood. It had been quite a surprise to realize it, in truth, but after a few months of retrospect, Jasper understood. You couldn’t knock a Dark Lord off his throne as a toddler without being something of a magical miracle.

“Really, Jasper? You’re going to try for that vein, when the lad clearly veers to your house as soon as school is done, and it’s his first stop as soon as Petunia opens the door every morning. Besides, no one ’keeps’ a Dark Lord. They are never pets. We just serve them.” Anton argued loftily.

“Right.” Jasper snorted. “And where were you in the puppy-pile last moon? Oh, that’s right, you were lying at Harry’s feet. That boy is ruddy worshiped by all the wolves that have moved to Privet Drive. Every single one of us with a house in the neighborhood has a spare room done up for the lad to use. He has toys to play with, and all his favorite movies in every wolf’s home. Yours included. The last full moon, we had eighty bags of take-out ready for the boy, in the event the Dursleys locked him out again. Now, precisely how is that serving? That’s keeping.”

“Po-tah-toe. Po-toh-to.” Anton huffed suddenly. “No. You can’t just scoot off for two weeks with Harry. I’ll have the whole pack parked on your driveway to block you in. AND I’ll tell Prudence you’re kidnapping her cousin.”

The bastard would, too. Alright, time for Plan B. “He licked me!”

“Harry?” Confusion abounded. “Well, that only makes sense. We wolves practically lick him to the bone on the moon.”

“No, dumbass, the vampire. He licked me. Said werewolf blood was tasty. Robust. Think about that -- can you imagine what he’d do to Harry? Those damn Dursleys are well known for keeping the lad locked outside to all hours of the night…. At night, Anton! A time when vampires are known to hunt for prey! Our lad’s prime pickings.”

A growl echoed on the line.

“That’s why I want the lad to come with Ally and I to Majorca. To keep him safe from predators that don’t understand, the child is not to be harmed. Besides, the pup’s not been out of that house or on a vacation since he was placed there. He doesn’t even know how to swim, or what a sand-castle is. Think on it, Anton. It’d b a good experience for him.”

Another growl, then a huff. “Wait until school lets out then. We’ll send enforcers along to protect the lad.”

“Oh, for love of…”

“No!” Anton huffed. “Look, we have nearly eighty wolves living here in Little Whinging, Jasper. All of them have moved here because they want to be closer to Harry. Now, I get your concerns, and I don’t disagree that this vampire is a problem, but I’m not explaining where the pup has disappeared to without warning, and then deal with a pack of sulking, whinging grown wolves for a fortnight straight. The pup stays.”

“Fine.” Jasper growled himself. “But then, something has to be done about that damned vampire!”

“Agreed!” Anton all but snarled. “I’ll start the calling tree. Meet in my yard. Your wife will have our pelts for carpets if we damage her new vegetable garden, and I’m not dealing with her gone all Dark Lady. I’m sure I’m developing an ulcer already from it all.”

Ally poured the tea in Prudence’s cup before filling her own. “So, your first guest.” She began carefully. “Congratulations!”

“I’m so stoked!” Prudence gushed, fair near cackling like the wicked witches in Shakespeare’s MacBeth. “This is very auspicious, you know. The Shoddy Inn never had a celebrity stay, but for my new B&B to have the Damned as my first celebrity guest, ever! I can’t even put into words how pleased I am to establish a reputation with just my first guest.”

“Hmm.” Ally sipped the strong brew carefully. With Prudence, one had to be certain that it was nothing more than black tea leaves, and not some concoction designed to wither skin or whatnot.

“And, I’ve heard him on the phone with some of his cronies, he’s thrilled with his little stay with us!” Prudence continued, picking up one of the short-breads Ally had gifted her, and eyeing it curiously. “What are these again?”

“Butter. Sugar. Flour.” Ally summarized to the lowest common denominator.

“Interesting. So simple.” Prudence murmured. “But, not something I should eat regularly?”

“Certainly not. That much sugar and butter is not good for your body.” Although, truthfully, Ally was making assumptions here. Hags were magical creatures, and not really all that typical to a human body. For all Ally knew, Prudence had one kidney and two livers, and rat poison was good for her.

“Hmm.” Tentatively, Prudence nibbled. “At any trail, so Judas was on the phone with his cronies, telling them all about the ambiance of our little community. He’s loving our spring weather. Just calls for a smattering of sunscreen, dash of sunglasses, and he’s gallivanting about like a regular tourist, bringing back bags of shopping, and has suggested I put in a pool for the B&B. I think I might!”

Ally blinked. “I thought he was a vampire?”

“He is, dearie.” Prudence squinted at the cookie, and took another careful bite, chewing thoughtfully.

“So how is he going about in daylight?”

Prudence frowned, setting down the cookie before standing up and wandering to her private library. In short order, she returned with a thin blue book, which she slid across the table to her guest, a knobby finger tapping on the cover.

Ally puled the book closer, and shifted it to read the cover, “Magical Theory: the nature of light and dark magics” by R. Ravenclaw. Oh, here they went again.

“Allison, my dear girl. I’ve half a mind to track down your granddad and turn him over my knee. The point is, young lady, every magical squib should be taught the non wanded classes like potions, herbology, arithmancy and runes, as well as be taught the basics of magical theory.”

“I was taught such.” Ally argued. “But, if you’re going to spout the aura of darkness nonsense, then I’m going to have to politely disagree.”

“Oh for the Crone’s sake --- does your husband seem ill after his transformation, nowadays?” Prudence countered.

Ally frowned. “No.”

“Howling and screaming during the transformation?”

The furrow in her forehead deepened. “Well, no.”

“Unable to move from his bed the next day, exhausted beyond measure?”

“No, he’s up and moving shortly after dawn.” Ally worried at a thumbnail.

“He’s a dark creature, dearie.” Prudence moved over to her new gas stove, possibly the nicest muggle invention a Hag could ever have. And her double oven? So awesome. It made her quiver to think what she could bake in it. Roast leg. A herbed and cheesy heart. “In a light magical atmosphere, his wolf would make him suffer something awful because it needs the wild magic to effect the transformation; wild magic being the primal natural living magic of the Earth, in environments where the Earth has been starved and can’t produce that magic, the werewolf suffers. But, despite the village, asphalt, electricity and whatnot here, and in Knockturn Alley where the wild magic has been secured by the runic magic running under the cobbled road, and in the buildings, here the wolf is surrounded by that magic. It literally flows around our young dark lord, and that he lives here under blood wards that reach out to the edges of the local park, means that he’s fueling the wild magic native to the park. All we need is a few magical creatures to take up residence, and the magic should fill the entire town. So, dark magic, being the use and ritual of the wild magic connects to the wolf, which makes the transformation easier, and so Jasper is rewarded.”

Allison blinked. “I thought Jasper WAS the wolf, and that the change came from Jasper’s magic being twisted in him.”

“Pish.” Prudence waved that off. “That’s pure wizard hogwash. Wizards have so inbred, and so classified things, that they’ve strayed away from the wild magic. Essentially, they’ve tied themselves to the limit of their internal magics, and that’s just pathetic. Magic is a gift from the Earth. It’s wild life energy. And life is about living and dying. Wizard’s conjecture those two elements as light and dark, and that’s wrong. Light meant “light of use” in the olden days, magic that could be done from the wizard’s core without use of ritual, runes, or tools.” She stirred her latest concoction on the stove, a little nutrient restorative for her wee cousin. “Do trust a hag. After all, I’ve dissected wolves in my time, studying them, and I know what I’m talking about. Bare bones about lycanthropy? It’s creating two separate beings in one physical shell. Wolf and man, two very different souls.”

Ally sat back in her chair. “Huh. Fancy that.”

“Read the book. Rowena was a famous dark witch, brilliant, skilled and so forward thinking. You could learn a thing or two about magic. Lord and Lady knows, you might become the first Black in the past three centuries to properly learn about magic as a result.”

Nowadays, Harry gave his Aunt and Uncle little to no thought at all. Ever since Auntie Ally and Uncle Jasper had come into his life, he’d not needed to fear his uncle’s wrath, or his Aunt’s pettiness. Uncle Jasper often offered to become the wolf and eat Uncle Vernon, and Auntie Ally made regular work of sending Aunt Tunia to the hospital for a wonky heart. That kept his blood relatives on their toes, as Auntie Ally said.

Additionally, the influx of more wolves to the neighborhood meant there were more people minding exactly how Aunt Tunia and Uncle Vernon treated him. And Harry knew well how little they liked that. It was easier for them to ignore his existence utterly, then pay him mind given these new conditions they found themselves in. That worked for Harry just fine.

On school-days, Auntie Ally had him come over to her house as soon as Aunt Tunia sent him out the door. There, he’d find breakfast waiting, a packed lunch for his schoolbag, and Auntie Ally would drop him off at school on her way to work. After school, usually Uncle Jasper but sometimes it was Uncle Anton would be at the gates with a small snack ready for him, and walk home with him. Most nights, Aunt Tunia fed him dinner, just for fear of Auntie Ally coming calling. And then he’d go to his new room, curl up in his bed, and work on his assignments quietly if he couldn’t be outside with the wolves. So, now the occasional full night in Caer Dursley wasn’t too bad. He just kept his head down, did what he was told, and ignored everything else.

Sometimes, though, Aunt Tunia got notions into her head. Ally said it was a sign of brain damage, not enough oxy-something getting to Aunt Tunia’s brain, and causing her to not think right. And on those nights, when Dudley was being very fussy, and Aunt Tunia wasn’t coping well, she tended to slip into old behaviors. Uncle Jasper said that Auntie Ally just needed to apply herself more to the situation. Harry wasn’t quite sure how that worked, but he accepted it as truth.

So, it was on grounds of Aunt Tunia’s wonky brain that Harry found himself standing in the front yard with Uncle Vernon’s gargantuan lawnmower, and struggling to turn the beast on, but failing miserably. It had taken him forever to get it out of the shed, and it was so heavy, pushing it to the front yard had near exhausted his little body. Then, there were these levers, and buttons, and this pull thingy… and of course, no manual. Harry felt if there was a manual, he might be okay, because he was getting really good at reading. But, without the manual, all he could do was push, pull and beg for the machine to magically just start.

It was looking more and more like this chore was going to cost him dinner, he just knew it.

Sighing, and squinting up at the setting sun, he circled the big lawnmower, eyeing the bits, pieces and parts. He was missing something, and he didn’t know what. Why was cutting the lawn such a big chore? And where was one of the human wolves when he needed them? He looked sulkily at Aunt Ally’s dark house, and then around the barren street. What really sucked was that he actually liked Aunt Tunia’s meatloaf, too.

Huffing, he went back to the pull-cord thingy on the right side of the motor. He knew it was the motor, because Uncle Jasper had explained his eleck-ric motor on his own lawnmower to him. He had been allowed to help rake up the cuttings. Uncle Jasper said cutting the grass was a big person’s job. Apparently, no one had informed Aunt Tunia of such.

So. The pull-cord thingy was pulled, but all that happened was the wheel inside the motor spun, it didn’t roar to life. Yup. This was not going well.

He scrutinized the handle, that he could barely reach. There was a lever there. Did it have to be pushed down to make the engine start? He tried that. Nope.

“Please start?” He asked the engine, wishing with all his might, and pushing down on the lever one more time.

The motor ROARED to life and jumped a foot ahead of Harry. “Eek!” The boy yelped, chasing after the suddenly wandering beast. It veered on it’s own haphazardly across the lawn – and that was bad. Uncle Vernon hated it when the lines of his lawn weren’t perfect. Running, he caught up to the machine, and maneuvered himself between the top bar with the handle, and the middle cross bar, and began the onerous task of pushing the lawnmower back to where it should begin on the lawn, and starting from that point to cut the evenly spaced lines.

Between grunts of effort, Harry kept praying the engine kept working until he was done. By the end of the first row, he was huffing and puffing from fighting to keep the machine on the straight and narrow. By the time he’d made it to the other side, he was ready to fall down and nap. This was work what with the machine vibrating hard against his tummy, fighting him on direction with each step.

No wonder Uncle Jasper said this was a big person’s job!

“Hey there, little bite.” A cheery male voice interrupted him. “Does your Mommy know you’re outside at this time of night? And does your Daddy know you’re playing with his lawnmower? I don’t think that’s right, bite-sized.”

Harry craned his neck and looked up at a big person, standing on the edge of Uncle Vernon’s driveway, and frowning at him. He was tall, like Uncle Jasper, but bigger, he had dark blond hair, a slight beard, and strange red eyes. Strangely, he was dressed all in black from neck to toe. “I don’t have a Mummy or Daddy. An’ Aunt Tunia told me I don’t get dinner if I don’t get the lawn cut.” Harry replied, taking the opportunity to catch his breath.

The tall man frowned, red eyes looking up to the front door of the house. “She did, did she?” He mused aloud. “Just the front lawn, then?”

“An’ back. An’ I have to get the clippings tidied up. An’ put the bag of clippings to the garage.” Harry pushed on, pulling with all his might to turn the beast around for the next struggle across the lawn. He had three passes done. Only a million more to go.

The man heaved a sigh, looking up to a rising quarter moon, and then around the dead quiet of the neighborhood. There wasn’t a house in sight with a light on. “Here, bite-sized, let me do that.” He stepped up to the mower, gently extricated the child out of his way, and in short order, started mowing the lawn while Harry stood there and stared, flummoxed that a stranger should step up and help him. It was so weird!

He only stared for a few moments, before shaking himself from his reverie. Initiative took hold, and Harry darted to the garage to grab the rake. Bringing the long-armed rake back, he quickly started cleaning up the clippings the mower left behind, following the strange man row by row, and pulling the clippings into a single pile.

In no time at all, or so it seemed, the front lawn was cut, as was the back lawn, and the strange man had rolled the lawnmower to stand in front of the garden-shed, and was staring at the roaring machine in perplexity. “How did you start this thing, bite-sized?” He called out to the boy, who was lifting grass cuttings into a paper yard waste bag. “There must be some trick to turning it off.”

Truthfully, Harry didn’t. He carefully put down the rake, and came over to the lawnmower, eyes studying the beast considering options. Operating under the same principle of how he begged the machine to start, he reached out with his left hand to the top of the motor, right reaching for the pull-thingy but screamed when tender fingers and palm encountered hot, hot, burning metal. Reflectively, his hand jerked back with a whimper, and he cradled the wounded hand to his chest, tears welling in his eyes and breath heaving in his chest as he fought down the urge to cry.

The man was crouched down in an instant, pulling at the wounded hand to examine it. He pulled out a handkerchief out of nowhere, and strangely, bit his own wrist to make it bleed, before soaking the blood into the white cloth. Then, even stranger, he gently placed the bloody cloth into Harry’s blistering hand, pressing the blood onto the screaming skin. “Hush, little bite.” The man gently said, “This will heal the skin.”

Coolness seemed to sweep icily over his skin, chasing away the incredibly burning prickle of his flesh. And then, like magic, his hand stopped feeling bad altogether. The strange man kept rolling the cloth all over the skin, coating it liberally in the blood, before lifting it, and Harry’s mouth formed a silent “Oh” of wonder to see his hurt flesh all better, and the blood all gone!

“Better, bite-sized?” The man asked, folding his handkerchief and shoving it into a pocket. Slowly, he stood, looking over to a lawnmower that had suddenly died with Harry’s first yelp. He cocked his head to the side, and gently rested a hand on top of Harry’s hair, thumb sliding across his forehead, parting the dark strands that hid his scar. “Ah. I see.” He said.

“My scar?”

The man laughed lightly, teeth flashing in the darkening night. “That too, bite-sized.” He walked over to the lawnmower, and rolled it up into the open shed.

“Oh.” Harry protested. “But, I have to rinse green off the blades with the hose and then dry them, too!”

The blond man shook his head, “No.” He argued. “Absolutely not. Take from me, because I’m an expert on things that cut – and sharp things like those blades are not something little nibblets should touch. I think it’s past time that I had a small word with your Aunt about the kind of chores she’s giving you. Bite-sized boys might help rake up cuttings, but doing the work without an adult supervising or helping? No.” He huffed a moment. “Come here, nibblet.” He sank down into a crouch again. “I need you to be honest, do you get chores like this a lot?” The big man asked quietly.

“No. Not anymore.” Harry still held the formerly wounded hand, curiously pushing at the skin experimentally, amazed it was all fixed. “Cause Aunt Tunia knows Auntie Ally will come over and make her heart stop again if she does stuff like this too much. But, Auntie Ally isn’t home, cause I checked. And Uncle Jasper is probably out with Aunty Ally, even if their car is home. Auntie Ally and Uncle Jasper always help me when Aunt Tunia gets her notions or I’m locked outside at night. And sometimes, when I’m locked out I just stay out and play with the wolves.”

“I see.” The strange man looked over to the red truck in the neighboring drive, and then at the dark house attached to that drive. “Well, come along poppet. Let’s just see if I can work the same magic as your Auntie Ally. And then we’ll go track them down.”

Hand in hand, Harry walked up to the front door of Number Four, curious to witness what was going to happen. He’d heard all about Aunt Tunia’s issues with Aunt Ally’s visits, but never SEEN it before. The first time, he’d been locked in his cupboard and asleep. The second, he and Uncle Jasper had been watching the cartoons, while Aunty Ally went over to scare some religion into Aun Tunia.

The strange man pressed the doorbell, four times, quickly. Harry winced, that kind of stuff always irritated Aunt Tunia and Uncle Vernon.

The door reefed open in such a sudden rush, Harry knew Aunt Tunia was very angry about the doorbell. He could hear Dudley howling in the background. “WHAT are you doing? You’ve just gone and woken up my little boy, you insensitive….” Her voice dropped at the stern glare the strange man gave her, and then the sight of her nephew at his side. She sighed, a hard put-upon sound, and her hand went to her forehead as if pushed beyond measure of patience. “What has that boy done now, the little felon.”

One blond eyebrow arched. “Madam.” The stranger began, voice very cold and hard. “I have never, in my life, been as appalled as right now. I witnessed your very young nephew struggle to cut the lawn, with a gas powered lawn-mower. A mower that should only be used in the hands of older teens and adults. A piece of lawn equipment that is dangerous and should be used only by those who have been taught how to use it, and are responsible enough to use it correctly. And I heard with my own ears his honest confession that he had to get his chores done or a child, probably not more than five years of age, would not be eating. And you call ME insensitive?”

“He lies.”

“Hardly.” The man sneered, “The fact is, I can hear the child’s stomach growling. And in the past half hour, not a curtain on this house has stirred, nor have you been calling out for him – which tells me you knew where he was, and what he was to be doing, and didn’t care.” He smiled coldly, and to Harry’s astonishment, fangs glinted in the light. “I should call the Aurors on you!”

Aunt Tunia gave a frightful squeak, and fell backwards in a slump.

The man with fangs shook his head in disgust. “She’s fine.” He told Harry. “I can hear her heart beating. What a waste.” Stepping over the woman, he suddenly barked a laugh, looking at the door, and the unconscious woman, and then the house interior. He turned to Harry, eyes dancing in mirth. “Seriously kid, I love this neighborhood. I don’t need an invitation to cross the threshold here – this rocks.”

Jerking his head, he led Harry to the kitchen, and jerked the fridge open. Rooting about, he found some leftovers, and set about making a plate up. After a few abortive attempts with the microwave, one death-threat administered to Dudley who turned right around, raced upstairs and was likely hiding under his bed, and Harry found himself sitting at the table – THE TABLE – eating his dinner.

“Don’t you want some?”

The blond man waved his hand. “Nah, I’m good. Wild magic here is thick, and it helps with the appetite.”

Harry didn’t understand, but he let it go. Uncle Jasper had long told him that there was milestones in a pup’s life, when new things were learned, and it was only at those milestones that a pup understood. (Harry hadn’t been sure what a milestone was, precisely, but Auntie Ally had said it was like reaching certain ages.)

So, he counted what the strange man was saying along the same lines as when Prudence said that magic was everywhere and in everything, but Aunt Tunia said there was no such thing as magic. He didn’t understand, but accepted that, and just let lie.

Wolfing down his bit of meat-pie, and savouring having a full meal when he’d not expected to have any tonight, Harry made short order of his dinner. He slid off the chair, gathered his plate and cutlery, and scuttled over to the sink, while the strange man poked around in the hall and living-room of the house.

Harry fetched the small stool from beside the fridge, and set it up in front of the sink. Then, getting up, he turned on the water, found cloth and soap before starting the scrub his plate and knife and fork clean. He set each item in the drying rack carefully. Once done, he rinsed the cloth, turned off the water, and set about wiping down the counter as far as he could reach. He stopped, isntead of leaning precariously on the stool, got down, moved the stool, and continued to clean the rest of the counter.

He hoped down to move the stool back to the sink, when the cloth was plucked from his hand by the stranger. “You do this often?” He was asked.

“Yup!” Harry crowed. “I’m good at cleaning!”

The man huffed, casting a withering look in Petunia’s direction. Aunt Tunia hadn’t moved at ALL yet. Harry wondered if maybe the emergency people should have been called after all. “How old are you, lad?”

“Four!” Harry told him, holding up the corresponding fingers. “I’ll be five soon, Auntie Ally says.” He added the extra digit, in case the man didn’t understand.

The man snorted. “Right. Well, it seems to me your Aunt is best keeping at playing possum. I’ve half a mind to re-educate her on chores appropriate for little boys. Climbing up to wash dishes and mop a counter is NOT appropriate. You don’t clean it until you can reach it with your feet on solid ground.”

Harry blinked. Huh. Aunt Ally got all growly when he tried to help do dishes at her house. Harry just thought it was ‘cause Aunt Ally liked doing dishes.

“What’s a possum?” He asked, focusing on what was really important.

“Small arboreal marsupial native to Australia.” The stranger said. “That means, a small furry animal that likes to live in the trees of Australia.  Likes to pretend to play dead to evade predators.”

Harry blinked again. “O-kay.”

“Come on nibblet, let’s go find Ally and and Jasper. I think I need to let them know what kind of shite your Aunt’s been pulling here.” He held out a hand.

Harry’s shoulders sagged. “I’m not allowed to go places with strangers.” He said sorrowfully. “Mrs. Peabody says that children should never wander off with people they don’t know.”

The blond man snorted. “Right. Well, easily fixed, nibblet. My name is Judas Iscariot. I’m the first guest at the new Ombre Bed and Breakfast down the road.”

“Pru’s house!” Harry nodded eagerly. “I helped her cut the rose-heads off the bushes.”

“Very good!” The vampire smirked. “So, you’ve been there before?”

“Aunt Ally takes me. We visit Pru for tea on the weekend, and Pru’s teaching me how to make potions!” Harry told him.

Again, the man snorted in amusement. “Well, there’s no one finer in the world but a hag to teach a lad potions, that’s for sure.” He agreed, rubbing a hand through his goatee thoughtfully.. “Though, finding a hag to teach a child rather than eat one is quite a trick…. at any road, now you know who I am. What’s your name?”

Harry pulled himself away from the subject of Pru and potions. Yet something else he’d have to learn at his ‘milestone.’ “I’m Harry Potter!”

The man, Judas, clapped his hands. “Excellent. See? We’re not strangers anymore. Come along, nibblet. Let’s go find your better smelling Auntie and Uncle.”

“We can’t set the B&B on fire, you bleeding moron!” Jasper yelled over the rowdy voices of the packs. Seventy-six men and women, all of them werewolves, most of them born or raised in Britain's magical world, but chased out of it by the restrictive laws on them all. “Do you really want to deal with Prudence if you did or do you secretly have aspirations to be a floor rug in her sitting room?”

“If she didn’t turn you into stew.” Anton added, absently cleaning his nails with a barbecue skewer. “And wouldn’t that be lovely -- having our pup dining on that stew.” He cast a withering glance at Walloby Davis, the idiot who had made the suggestion.

Walloby kindly paled. “Well, maybe she’d die too!” He blurted.

“You’re a moron.” Chet Halfner slammed his elbow into Walloby’s gut. The nearly bald man bent over, clutching his belly. “Merlin save us -- Prudence is well known in the magical world -- she’s the daughter of some wizard, and can do wand magic. That means, unlike other hags, the flames wouldn’t touch her.”

“I didn’t know!”

“He lived under a rock.” Said Siena Gingras. “Literally. Just outside of Perth. Small cave. So, when he says he didn’t know, that’s what he’s really saying.”

A snicker ran through the group.

“Okay, back to it. We have to protect the pup. How do we do that with the vampire running around?” Jasper asked wearily.

“Kill the Dursleys, and put the pup in a different home.” Siena suggested.

“Love to. Blood wards.” Jasper sighed. “Ally is working hard to give Petunia a honest-to-god--it-killed-her heart attack. The wretched woman keeps surviving.”

“Give Ally some digitalis, and have her poison Petunia with it?” Someone suggested.

“I’d like my wife not to be arrested on the charge of murder.” Jasper frowned. “Besides, that doesn’t roust the vampire. Worse, if the Dursleys expire, and wouldn’t that be lovely, it’s very like Dumbledore would sweep in and take the boy elsewhere.”

“No. He’d not get away with that We’d eat his ruddy goat-loving heart.” Chet growled.

Lovely thought, but unlikely. Jasper gave Anton a look, the one that said,’See? You should have let me take Ally and the lad away for a fortnight.’

“Prudence might have a claim to the lad’s custody.” Anton mused.

“The vampire’s living under her roof.” Jasper pointed out.


“We could ask him?” Siena suggested.

Jasper rolled his eyes. “Yes, because all of you were so eager to go home after one visit.” He said snidely. “Besides, I’m not going to be the one to ask him to leave the B&B, and not go back. The idear is to make the area uninteresting for him.”

“Too late.  Far too, too late.” A cheery voice sing-songed, wandering into Anton’s backyard with Harry holding his hand. “See, Nibblet -- I told you I could find your uncle.” The vampire said looking down at the boy. “Go tell him how nasty your Aunt was.”

Harry grinned, and ran off, leaping up into Jasper’s open arms. “Aunt Tunia sent me outside to cut the lawn with Uncle Vernon’s big new mower. I couldn’t turn it on for the LONGEST time.”

Despite the fact the lad was safe in his arms, Jasper (and seventy-five other wolves) all growled. “She what?”

“Tol’ me to cut the lawns. Both of them. But, Judas came around, and he helped.”

Jasper outright glared at Anton. He just KNEW this shit would happen.

“An, I burned my hand, but Judas fixed it!” Harry continued eagerly, happy to tell his tale. Judas, when everyone glanced his way, gave a merry wave.

“Then, Judas told Aunt Tunia off, and she fell down -- but unlike when Aunt Ally does it, her heart didn’t stop. She started playing….” He looked hopefully over at Judas.

“Possum.” The vampire supplied helpfully.

“Possum.” Harry frowned. “What’s a possum?” He whispered to Jasper.

“I’ll show you later.” Jasper whispered back.

“Right. So, Judas made me dinner.”

Everyone glared, and there was a frantic shuffle, as seventy-six werewolves tried to sniff around Harry for any unauthorized puncture wounds in the boy.

“Meatloaf. Some beats, and a small pile of potatoes. Very boring. And way too much butter in that meal altogether.” Judas examined his nails, plucking the skewer out of Anton’s hand, and having a go at some perceived dirt.

“Then, Judas said we’d come find you. And we did!” Harry concluded.

“Back and front lawns are cut. I didn’t trim the edges. That was pushing my limits.” Judas smiled urbanely, fangs on display. “But, I must say -- this was awesome. So many dark creatures in one neighborhood, the ambiance of darkness that lets me wander around in the day -- and a small dark lord. Good gravy, I think this place could be an absolute mecca. I’m going to invest. Open a few shops, maybe a tourist attraction or two, buy myself and a few friends a place to stay -- I’ll help make Little Whinging into a central mecca for the Dark Creatures. Lucifer only knows, the weather in Romania is NOT all it could be.”

Jasper could only groan.

“Hey,” Judas paused mid-turn in his departure. “I hear you wolves have your own construction firm -- who should I contact about a new building job?”

Seventy-five traitorous hands all pointed straight at Jasper.

Judas grinned evilly. “Oh, that's excellent!”

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